Four Keys to Landing Your First Government IT Job
Getting your career off the ground or starting down a new career path can take time, but it is possible with focus and commitment. When entering the federal IT world, the key is to become familiar with the industry and its unique requirements.
To be successful in federal IT, you need to understand not only the IT industry itself, but also become knowledgeable about government jobs and the federal sector’s formalities. The latter is just as important in order to give you a head start in your career search. Ready to break into the federal IT sector? Consider these four tips to get you closer to landing your first government IT job.
Key #1: Research Positions
As with any industry or job interest, in order to identify what’s on the market for federal IT jobs, a thorough job search is an essential first step. Before conducting your search, consider these questions:
• What type of IT position am I looking for?
• What is my level of experience?
• Is there a specific location I’d like to work?
• Does this coincide with my long-term career goals?
In addition, for the federal IT sector, you should also add these questions:
• Do my prior skills align well with specific kinds of federal IT work (such as enterprise software implementation, cybersecurity, cloud migration, etc.)?
• What federal agencies might be the strongest targets for my search?
• Am I well-positioned and prepared to secure specific security clearances?
• Would I prefer to work for the same organization over a long period of time, or am I better-suited to working on a variety of projects and contracts?
The search will help you determine if the job of your choice is in high-demand; help you confirm that you are looking for the right position; determine if your skills are a good match; and help you prepare to apply.
Key #2: Understand Government Job Postings
Government positions are posted with specific codes to differentiate education levels and qualifications. One step in making sure you are applying for a position that matches both your skills and qualifications is by cracking the General Schedule code or GS code and series.
These codes classify positions by occupational series, grade or pay level and pay plan. Pay plans identify the system under which it is covered. Many white-collared employees are paid under the GS, which is regulated by title 5 and administered by the United States Office of Personal Management or OPM (OPM.gov). Below is a chart that identifies GS levels by education (Military.com):
Key #3: Create a Federal IT Resume
Unlike traditional resume rules, federal resumes are not limited to a certain page number. The idea is to provide as much detail as possible regarding your experience in the IT industry. Tailor your resume to fit the position’s requirements in order to display enough expertise in the field to grab the hiring manager’s attention. Use keywords that are included in the job posting to increase your chances.
While responsibilities in your previous roles are necessary to include, steer away from it being the direct focus on your resume. In other words, quantify your results and discuss money and time saved, implementation of effective strategies or procedures, and more. The format of your resume plays a big role, too. Whether you’ve been in the industry for a long time or you’re just starting, carefully select the appropriate format. There are three resume formats to consider (DHS):
Key #4: Find an IT Staffing Firm
Entering the federal IT industry for the first time can be overwhelming, so working closely with an IT staffing firm could release some pressure. Federal IT staffing firms work diligently to provide top-notch talent in cyber security, cloud services, data warehousing, health IT and more to both the government itself and to government contractors.
IT staffing firms hire technical recruiters to conduct both phone-based and in-person interviews to evaluate a candidate’s qualifications. The technical recruiter works closely with hiring managers on job description development, candidate profile creation, evaluation and selection. The opportunity to receive direct feedback from the technical recruiters on both your resume and your interviews will give you leverage in your job search moving forward.
There is a wealth of resources available to help you with your search. It takes dedication, time and tenacity, but once you identify the right positions, understand government job postings, tailor your resume, and, if you choose, work with a federal IT staffing firm, you can increase your chances of landing your first federal IT job.